Abstract Title
A study to explore the perceived learrning needs of case-based learning (CBL) facilitators


Lowri Evans
Lesley Pugsley


7BB Approaches to teaching and learning


Cardiff University - Postgraduate Medical Education - United Kingdom


Case-based learning (CBL) is a core part of the new C21 curriculum at Cardiff University School of Medicine, delivered to first year medical students for the first time in the academic year 2013/2014 as part of a phased entry. This is a significant educational paradigm shift for staff involved in the previous lecture-based curriculum1. An effective educational programme for facilitators is required to support this difficult transition.

As part of a Medical Education MSc, a study was conducted to identify the educational needs of facilitators, to help inform a training model for new and returning facilitators.

CBL is a derivative of problem-based learning (PBL) and describes sessions where a clinical case is used to stimulate and underpin learning with a facilitator guiding the process2. The main difference between the two approaches is that the facilitator guides inquiry and has a higher level of involvement in CBL3. There was a mixture of non-clinical and clinical staff, all novice facilitators, who facilitated three sessions a fortnight.

Summary of Results

Eight themes emerged of which four were analysed in detail:

Several themes are identified are well documented in the literature but other less predictable learning needs such as the clinical-academic facilitator perceived divide were revealed.

Strategies to address learning needs for novice facilitators included:

  • Training sessions covering the theory and ethos of CBL
  • Clearly defining the role of a facilitator
  • Observing CBL sessions

Strategies to identify ongoing educational needs included:

  • Regular facilitator meetings
  • Student feedback
  • Peer review
Take-home Messages

Facilitator feedback and their perceived needs should be used to inform the development of an educational programme, it may not be what you expect!


To all the faciliatators at Cardiff University for agreeing to partake in the study.

To Dr Lesley Pugsley, my tutor for the Medical Education MSc.

Summary of Work

Aim: To produce a sustainable educational strategy to fulfil facilitators’ learning needs by surveying current facilitators to identify the learning needs of new and returning facilitators and how best to meet them.

Research question: What are the perceived learning needs of facilitators in a case-based learning curriculum?

Literature search: Google Scholar was used to scope the search and to help identify relevant keywords.Web of Science and EBSCO databases used in addition to ancestary searching. Total of 15 articles included in the literature review.

Methodology: A qualitative methodology, in keeping with an interpretivist approach was used. The method was semi-structured face-to-face interviews. A total of 23/28 full time facilitators were willing to participate, however only 18 were able within the given timetrame. Therefore 18 semi-structured interviews with a target time of 20-30 minutes were undertaken by the researcher and recorded using a dictaphone.

Data Analysis: The interviews were transcribed verbatim by the researcher. Formal data analysis using manual open coding was performed after the completion of all interviews. Subsequent axial coding  generated resulting in a total of eight themes. See more details for coding trees of the primary themes.


An educational model was developed based on the facilitators’ perceptions of their learning needs  (see more details).


1. Dolmans, D. H. J. M. et al. 2002. Trends in research on the tutor in problem-based learning: conclusions and implications for educational practice and research. Medical Teacher 24(2), pp. 173-180

2. Williams, B. 2005. Case based learning—a review of the literature: is there scope for this educational paradigm in prehospital education? Emergency Medicine Journal 22(8), pp. 577-581.

3. Srinivasan, M. et al. 2007. Comparing problem-based learning with case-based learning: Effects of a major curricular shift at two institutions. Academic Medicine 82(1), pp. 74-82.

Summary of Results

Take-home Messages
Summary of Work




  • Every institution should undertake a comprehensive facilitator learning needs analysis including the facilitators' perceived earning needs
  • Every institution should invest in staff development and reward facilitators' commitment
  • CBL programmes must currently rely on evidence from the PBL literature.  CBL is becoming a more established approach and further research specific to CBL is required to develop its evidence base

Study limitations

  • The ‘felt needs’ of the facilitators may differ to the ‘ascribed needs’ of those leading the CBL programme
  • Less predictable learning needs may be programme specific, limiting the generalisability of the results
  • Facilitators may be unaware or ignorant of potential learning needs  
    • …there’s probably a load of information or educational things that we need to be aware of and I’m blind to them. I can’t see what I can’t see.” (Interview 1)
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